Farke believes injuries have been main cause of City’s set-piece woes
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Daniel Farke is well aware that Norwich City’s defending at set-pieces has left a lot to be desired recently - but it has come as little surprise to the Canaries’ head coach.
Watford’s equaliser during last Tuesday’s 2-1 defeat and West Ham’s first two goals during the 4-0 home thrashing on Saturday were scored as the opposition proved too strong when attacking set-pieces.
“In general physicality is unbelievably important,” Farke admitted ahead of tonight’s clash with Chelsea. “Our time right now is too short to explain all the points that we have learned and need to improve, for hopefully the next time when pretty soon we will come back (to the Premier League) - but physicality is one of these topics.
“For example, you could sense this in the last two games why it is so important, for example, to have Kenny McLean on the pitch.
“Even in the games before when we were not successful, or not winning, the players on the pitch are a bit criticised and you wish then for some other skills, but when he (McLean) is not on the pitch we are lacking physicality, we are lacking speed, mobility and pace in the centre.
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“It’s no coincidence that in the last two games we conceded out of set-pieces and we didn’t concede them in the games before when Kenny was there because he is also unbelievably good in heading and defensive headers and is so important for us.
“For a side like Man City for example who are unbelievably dominant and it’s not that important to be that good from set-pieces in these physical attributes, because they are able to dominate 80 percent of possession and just have one or two corners against them, it’s perhaps not so important.
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“As a side who is fighting against relegation who has to defend a lot it’s also important to have physical strength, of course.”
Yet Farke points to the injury absences of taller and more physical players Christoph Zimmermann, Grant Hanley and Sam Byram as almost creating an imperfect storm.
“We definitely need to improve in this topic,” he concluded. “I wouldn’t say it’s a lesson we need to learn, we knew it before, but no one could predict that especially our best headers and physical players would be out for such a long time.
“But it doesn’t take anything away that we were lacking this in recent weeks, that’s for sure.”
One of the few bright spots during a miserable spell for City however has been the return to fitness of Onel Hernandez after knee surgery, who has worked hard for his team and added a different option to Farke’s attacking options.
“Onel is a brilliant lad, he is always brave and emotional and he always wants to help the team,” Farke added.
“At times he is unplayable because he is a bit unpredictable. Sometimes you get the feeling that even he doesn’t know what his next move is when he starts his dribbling.
“That helps us because we have many players who are there with good passing skills but Onel is special in his approach because he can use his pace, his dribbling and his offensive one-against-one skills.
“He’s important for our game. Of course on this level maybe not in each and every minute of every game but it’s important to have him back, we were missing him a lot in the beginning and especially we need his pace on the wing.
“Quite often we play with players who like to tuck inside and play passes so a bit his straight forward game and pace is good for us and it’s definitely good to have him back.”